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Science Discussion Storyboards

By Oliver Smith

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What is a Discussion Storyboard?

A Discussion Storyboard, simply put, is a storyboard that is designed to promote discussion in the classroom. Each storyboard is a situation or a question with visual stimulus alongside different viewpoints on the situation. At the most basic level, they will show a problem with fictitious students giving their opinion on the problem. Normally at least one of the characters will give the scientifically accepted viewpoint, with the other characters giving misconceptions.

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In the example above, the student are looking at how a simple circuit works. There is a cell to briefly show what the students are looking at, then four additional cells where each student gives their opinion on the phenomenon. In each of the opinion cells, there is a circuit diagram to support the opinion statement of the students.


Sara“The bulb will be brighter the closer it is to the battery.”Sara is incorrect because the brightness of a bulb does not depend on its location in the circuit. This statement was chosen because it is a common misconception among students that the closer a bulb is to the battery, the brighter it will be. This misconception stems from students not correctly understanding current.
Chelsea“It doesn’t matter where you put the bulb in the circuit.”Chelsea is correct because the brightness of a bulb does not depend on its location in the circuit. If students need further evidence to believe this is correct, it is easy to demonstrate this using a battery, a bulb, and some wires.
Jose“The bulb will be dimmer the closer it is to the battery.”Jose is incorrect because the brightness of a bulb does not depend on its location in the circuit. This statement was chosen to elicit any other misconceptions surrounding bulb brightness due to its location in a circuit.
Curtis“The bulb will be bright if we only connect it to one side of the battery.”Curtis is incorrect because in order for the circuit to work, it needs to be complete. This statement was chosen to elicit many misconceptions about complete/incomplete circuits. Some students believe that circuits don’t need to have two wires to work. This misconception could come from the fact we only plug one cable into an outlet in our homes.

Why Use Discussion Storyboards?

Discussion Storyboards are extremely useful tools in the Science classroom as both a pre-assessment tool and creative way to get students thinking critically. They allow you to assess student understanding within a topic; this assessment could take place at the start of a topic as a baseline, or at the end of a lesson or unit to check the level of understanding of a concept. Discussion Storyboards provide a fantastic stimulus for meaningful classroom discussion by encouraging students to think and talk about complex science ideas, forcing students to be active in their learning and creative in explaining ideas. Discussion Storyboards motivate all students to get involved and are especially effective with students for whom literacy is a barrier to learning, as they are designed to have minimal amounts of writing.

Discussion Storyboards are also a great tool to elicit student misconceptions. Students have a wide range of ideas coming into the Science classroom; students form misconceptions when they are young and trying to make sense of the world, usually heavily influenced by experiences. These misconceptions are individual for each child, but often students have similar ideas on how the natural world works. Such preconceived notions can be very difficult to get rid of. Each of the Discussion Storyboards listed below has been designed so each of the viewpoints are on equal footing. Students will be unable to work out which is the accepted viewpoint from the context of the storyboard, leading to in-depth conversations about student ideas and reasoning.

Students can be open and free to criticize and challenge ideas without feeling they might upset someone. Because the idea doesn’t belong to them or anyone else in their class, they can be more confident in pointing out the flaws in reasoning. No student enjoys getting the wrong answer in class, so the imaginary characters can help students discuss their ideas without fear of hurting feelings. While the completed examples here all use the same four students, Sara, Chelsea, Jose, and Curtis, create Discussion Storyboards with any characters.

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Discussion Storyboards in the Classroom

Discussion storyboards can be used in a number of ways, first and foremost as a stimulus for discussion. They can be used as a resource for teacher-led class discussions or for student-led discussions of pairs or small groups. When beginning a class discussion, the simplest questions is, “Who do you think is correct?”. You can make this more difficult by asking, “Why do you think they are correct?”. This question encourages students to explain their thinking. To stretch your most able students, have them try to spot the misconceptions that feature in the viewpoints of the other students by asking the question, “Why do you think the other students are incorrect?”. Differentiate your questions to different students to allow all of them to access the lesson.


Suggested Differentiated Discussion Questions


You can also give them to students to discuss in groups. This encourages students to manage discussion on their own and learn how to deal with a difference of opinion effectively. This can then be wrapped up quickly as a class discussion with a show of hands. An advantage to discussing in smaller groups is students will spend more time talking and discussing their ideas and less time listening.

They can also be a great tool to inspire scientific investigation. After discussing the different viewpoints, have students design an investigation, individually or in groups, to see who is correct using the Storyboard That experiment planning resources.

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Using Storyboard That

The easiest way to use Storyboard That alongside these Discussion Storyboards is to give students a completed storyboard and instruct them to add a cell onto the end. In this cell, students can explain who they think is correct and why. Or, get students to show their ideas and understanding by completing a storyboard like the ones below.





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Making Discussion Storyboards

Ultimately, to really challenge your students, have them make their own discussion storyboards. This is a great activity to complete at the end of learning about a topic.

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There are a number of Discussion Storyboards already prepared for a number of different topics at all school levels below. For these Discussion Storyboards to be most effective, it is important to tailor these to your students, either by modifying the examples given, or creating your own from scratch.

When making your own from scratch, consider the following:


Examples of Discussion Storyboards

Feel free to adapt any of these examples for your class by creating a copy and modifying as you need.

Elementary Discussion Storyboards





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Middle School Discussion Storyboards





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High School Discussion Storyboards





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